Secrets of the Night
Excited! That’s what I was when I saw Jo Beverley’s newest book, Secrets of the Night, sitting in my mail box. Never having read the author, but hearing nothing but raves about her work, I was confident I was in for an enjoyable story. Then I made the mistake of reading the back blurb and groaned. I even entertained the evil thought of pawning it off on some other unsuspecting reviewer. You see, the plot conflict revolves around one of my personal romance plot no-no’s: adultery. It was also the newest installment in a series I hadn’t read and I’m a bit of nut when it comes to reading books in order. Despite these two strikes against it, I broke down and read the first paragraph and was hooked. I was hooked so badly that I read three-quarters of the book before a taking break near the end when the book started to wind down.
Rosamunde (Rosa) stands to lose everything she holds dear unless she takes some desperate measures. Her husband of seven years, Digby, a sickly, older man, has been unable to produce an heir. As a result, their beloved home will be inherited by a nephew who belongs to a fanatical religious cult. Digby, although married to Rosa, is more of a protector than a husband (although thankfully she’s not a blushing virgin and they did sleep together early in the marriage). He saved her life by proposing marriage to her after she was gravely injured and scarred at the tender age of 17. He’s a sweet-hearted man who will do anything to ensure Rosa’s happiness and enthusiastically encourages his sheltered young wife to find herself a handsome young man to give her pleasure and get her with child – a child that he will pass off as his own so that Rosa will have a home when he dies.
Rosa, an adventurous sort until her accident, has been living the life of a hermit because she’s insecure about her facial scars. She’s nervous but also a bit excited about this new adventure and heads out to a masquerade ball to find a man. She finds herself disgusted with all of the men she meets, chickens out, and heads home.
While driving home she spots a man lying unconscious in the street. Refusing to let him die, she has her driver pick him up and delivers him to the safety of her friend’s home where she nurses him throughout the night. When he awakens he doesn’t know who he is, but he is grateful to the masked woman who has saved his life and offers her payment. Rosa is attracted to this stranger and sees the perfect opportunity to end her troubles. She asks him to become her love slave. He eagerly agrees – never imagining he’ll fall in love with her or she with him.
Thus begins the incredibly sensual but nearly impossible love story of Brand Malloren, the third son of the late Marquess of Rothgar, and a married farmer’s daughter. The love story develops believably and the hero falls in love with the heroine without ever seeing her face! The banter is sexy and funny. The couple shares an instant connection and many mutual interests. There is never a doubt that they have truly fallen in love despite the short time that they have together. I couldn’t get enough of these characters. They’re wonderfully real and innately sweet people that leap off the page, and it is impossible not to ache for the situation they’ve found themselves placed in.
The story speeds along at an unputdownable pace until the last quarter. The sensuality and closeness of the couple is interrupted by the culmination of the intrigue subplot and a necessary year long separation of the couple. The ending, although a happy one and one that couldn’t have ended any other way, did leave me feeling a wee bit unsettled.
Is this a book for everybody? Probably not. Some readers will be bothered more than I by the adulterous plot and many will be unwilling to read even a page. However, I’m glad I put my preconceptions aside and gave Brand and Rosa a chance because they crept into my heart like few characters do.
Secrets of the Night is part of a series about the Malloren family but I can personally guarantee that it can be read without having prior knowledge of the Mallorens and that you won’t be bored to death by back story. Now I’m off to dig those other intriguing Mallorens out of my TBR pile!